Review: Love and Other Drugs
Who can sell dick drug better than me?
Love and other Drugs tries to be a crowd pleaser and that’s part of its problem. It’s funny in places, light and bubbling with sexual tension but it all feels a little inconsequential and in the end far too conventional.
The film concerns Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie, an underachieving med school dropout who works in an audio-visual store and promptly gets fired for shagging the store manager’s girlfriend. Maggie (Anne Hathaway) is a snarky, vivacious waitress who’s suffering from early-onset Parkinsons and takes more pills in a day to cope with it than I have had in the last ten years.
The film handles Maggie’s situation carefully, avoiding the pitfalls that would come with showing Hathaway as helpless, needy character who needs a male figure to carry her cross. She’s tough and resilient because she needs to be, if there is a flaw inherent to the character it’s that she’s too independent, closed off from seeking help because she sees it as defeat rather than a potential victory.
Gyllenhaal is a little more smug, perhaps a bit more determined but hasn’t found the right vocation for himself. Until he becomes a sales rep for a drug company (Pfizer), the company that eventually invents Viagra but that’s more or less background noise. They’re both people who find solace in meaningless relationships based on sex that offer none of the restrictions that a more rigid, conventional relationship would entail.
That is, until they find each other…
…and sparks fly.
And by sparks I mean they have lots of sex wherever and whenever possible.
This film doesn’t hide from showing the flesh (the Mr Skin website will have a field day) and it helps make it distinct from other Hollywood films by capturing them in their most private and naked moments. It’s a relationship based on genuine intimacy, never showing the skin for titillation (although it does amuse in some cases). They’re both highly sexual creatures and this kind of relationship suits them down to the bone (ahem) until one of them falls in love and it becomes serious.
And what follows are the usual recriminations, the “I don’t want you to live this life” talk or the “I’m really depressed and can’t live without you in my life” bits. It does cross some overly melodramatic holes in its third act (and falls into a few of them), but despite those errors it’s frothy enough to please. What Love and Other Drugs doesn’t derive from its audience is a cacophony of laughter that it aims for or achieve the lofty heights of the drama actually moving you (although Hathaway’s performance comes close). It tries to insert a commentary on health practices but it never really has an impact. It’s enjoyable as it sits on screen and despite the performances of both Gyllenhaal and Hathaway it never exceeds the expectations of the romantic comedy. It gives in to them without hesitation and asks you to invest in scenes we’ve seen before in some way or another.
It’s a good, well made film, but that need to be a crowd pleaser means that no matter what it’s a generic, commercial enterprise that entertains for most of its runtime but leaves you without an interesting climax (I’ll get my coat).